Can red bean rice cakes produce good neighbors?These days, my neighbors are causing me deep distress. Before I moved into this new apartment, I had romantic visions about an ideal urban community. Although we live in a hectic city, I had the hopeful thought that we could somehow develop a sense of community where newcomers pass around red bean rice cakes and invite one another for tea.
I am not dreaming alone here. My family maintains a close friendship with the neighbors. When my parents travel abroad, their neighbors come in once a day to water the plants and collect the newspapers. When our family lived in an apartment in Banpo, my parents were so close to the family next door that they even signed their immigration applications to Canada on the same day.
Whatever the reason, it’s somehow different to live in a new apartment in downtown Seoul in 2005. People just don’t care about their neighbors. I recently saw a notice in the elevator from an angry resident warning those who secretly leave their garbage bags in an underground parking lot. Another complaint about someone throwing their trash bag out the window was recently posted on our apartment’s Web site.
Even the neighbors on my floor are no exception.
Just the other day, I saw an empty pickle container sitting in the hallway, just outside an apartment. I naively assumed that it would be cleared away soon. But then I found that someone was conveniently using the empty can as an ashtray. The apartment is definitely on my black list. When I first moved in, the resident hung a wet mop in the hallway.
These incidents were aggravated by my new neighbor, “a tall, handsome young man,” as my mother described him.
For weeks after he moved in last month, I could barely sleep from the noise made by a poor young woman who desperately stood outside his door every night, banging on it. After hearing that repeatedly over three or four weeks, another neighbor finally called the police, who dragged the woman away.
On top of this, there recently was a murder in my building. Maybe it held some secret prison camp during the Korean War. The unhappy spirits are forcing my neighbors to do these insane things, like throwing trash out of their window and killing each other.
Now, my handsome new neighbor is pushing me over the edge by turning up the volume of an adult film he seems to watch every night so loud that I almost feel compelled to make some poisoned pancakes one of these days, and knock on his door with a smile to ask him to turn the volume down.
If this were a romantic comedy, of course, he would be infatuated with me, in which case I would order him to clear away the empty can, and poison those who secretly leave their garbage and throw cigarette butts into the can.
How to Cook
Red bean rice cakes
Ingredients: 2 kilograms of sweet rice, 2 kg. red beans, 1 kg. flour, a bit of salt and sugar
1. Soak the sweet rice in water for one day. Drain rice, sprinkle on a little salt and sugar and crush into a fine grind.
2. Pour into a strainer.
3. Thoroughly wash and soak red beans for a couple of hours, steam and crush into a fine grind. Mix flour with water and add rice powder.
4. Place cheesecloth on a steamer. After placing a mold, pour on rice and then red beans on top of the rice. Several layers can be arranged in this manner.
5. Steam for about half an hour.
by Park Soo-mee